Coal Is Uncompetitive. Why Do We Burn So Much?

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By Stephen Lacey and Wood Mackenzie. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

America gets 20 percent of its electricity from coal. That’s a 50 percent drop since the peak in 2007. But if coal is becoming so economically uncompetitive, why does it still make up so much of our grid mix?

This week: Coal is no longer king. But it still has a lot of power across the land. How do we banish it for good?

Katherine and Stephen welcome Joe Daniel as a guest co-host this week. Joe is a senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Joe joins us to talk about the problem of coal plant “self-scheduling,” which locks in operation of dirty power plants even when the economics don’t make sense.

We’ll also look at how we unburden ourselves from the long-term agreements these coal plants are under? One solution is to buy back debt through securitization — basically like refinancing a mortgage. How will it work?

Finally, we’ll discuss the numbers behind nationalizing the coal industry. Could we buy up the entire sector, shut it down, and then offer wages, healthcare, pensions, and job placement to displaced workers? It would only cost somewhere between $33 billion and $83 billion over 15 years, according to estimates from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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395 episodes